UW News

July 19, 2000

200 volunteers sought for study to find better depression treatment

University of Washington researchers trying to come up with more effective treatments for depression, America’s most common mental health problem, are looking for 200 Puget Sound residents to volunteer for a new study.

Approximately 17 million Americans are affected by depression and lasting treatment for it remains elusive. That’s why UW researchers are seeking local adults to volunteer for a study that is testing the effectiveness of state-of-the-art treatments for depression.

To be eligible, people must be between the ages 18 and 60 and have felt depressed in the past month and/or have lost interest in most of their daily activities. In addition, potential subjects cannot currently be in treatment for depression and must be willing to be randomly assigned to a treatment method, according to Sona Dimidjian, project coordinator.

The study is being funded as part of a $3.4 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health under the supervision of Dr. David Dunner, professor of psychiatry and behavioral science; Robert Kohlenburg, associate professor of psychology; and Karen Schmaling, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. It is the largest single-site study of treatments for depression.

People selected as subjects will be evaluated, then randomly given one of several treatments for 16 weeks and two years of follow-up evaluation. Subjects may receive up to $330 for participation in post-treatment evaluations.

The study is designed to compare Paxil, a drug commonly used to treat depression, and two forms of psychotherapy, cognitive therapy and behavioral activation. Cognitive therapy is presently considered to be the “gold-standard” of psychotherapy treatment for depression. Behavioral activation is a new treatment that focuses on getting patients reengaged in life and the world around them. It holds promise of being a more economical and easier for therapists to learn, according to Dimidjian. One of the goals of the study is to measure its effectiveness against Paxil and cognitive therapy. In an earlier study by Neil Jacobson, a UW psychology professor who died in 1999, and other UW researchers, behavioral activation performed as well as cognitive therapy in the short-term treatment of depression and its long-term prevention of relapse.

People who would like to volunteer for the study or have questions should contact Elizabeth Shilling, recruitment coordinator, at the UW’s Center for Clinical Research at (206) 685-8500.

For more information, contact Dimidjian (206) 685-9383 or sdimidij@u.washington.edu